ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Calvin Johnson’s retirement leaves a huge void for the Detroit Lions.
Detroit will face defenses for the first time in a decade without one of its players drawing double coverage on almost every snap.
Johnson walked away from the Lions and the league in March, announcing his retirement at the age of 30. The move rekindled memories of Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders cutting his career short with the same franchise.
As great as Johnson was though, the Lions were not very successful even with the spectacular wide receiver in the lineup. They were 7-9 last season, finishing below .500 for the seventh time in his nine-year career.
If Detroit can’t protect quarterback Matthew Stafford better and fails to run the ball effectively, whether Johnson suited up for another season will likely be a moot point.
Stafford has been sacked 89 times the past two years, ranking among NFL leaders. The Lions averaged a league-low 83.4 yards rushing per game last season.
“That is on us,” guard Larry Warford said. “We learned a lot from that and we’ve got to share that knowledge with the new guys.”
Detroit’s rookie general manager Bob Quinn, who worked his way up in the New England Patriots’ front office, tried to address a glaring need by drafting offensive tackle Taylor Decker in the first round, center Graham Glasgow in the third and guard Joe Dahl in the fifth round.
“All three of them are great players and I could see each of them playing key roles for us this year,” Warford said.
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